Tuesday Buzz: Membership Lessons From Social Clubs

How one social club is keeping relevant with younger audiences—and growing membership at the same time. Also: Conflict's a-brewin' in the craft beer space; this clever video is proof.

How do you keep something as formal as a swanky social club relevant to members? You adapt to changing social trends.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlights the current success of the Wisconsin Club, which will celebrate its 125th anniversary next year. The organization is reaching new financial highs and is maintaining a strong handle on membership—which currently stands around 1,500.

The organization’s success in convincing new members to join the club, which costs $2,832 per year, is partly due to its willingness to adapt, offering something a lot less formal than what you might have found if you’d walked into the club even 20 years ago.

“Back in 1994, guys couldn’t walk in here without a sport coat and tie,” noted John Constantine, the club’s general manager, in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.

The organization slowly changed its approach to allow for more casual patrons, adding in a sports bar, among other spaces. These additions have boosted business significantly for the social club, and the casual rooms do four times as much business as the formal areas.

And when it comes to membership, the club—which has locations in downtown Milwaukee and in a country club near the outskirts of the city—courts younger members as well.

“We’ve increased membership every year for the past 20 years,” he added. “We have not gone backward once. We have to make sure we don’t overlook the younger professionals in the city.”

That matches the findings of the National Club Association, which has emphasized the role of younger generations as members in recent research [PDF].

They Want to Belong

Speaking of millennials and membership, Colleen Dilenschneider is all over the way they approach joining a cultural organization. Check it out in her latest Know Your Own Bone video.

Dilenschneider, the chief market engagement officer at IMPACTS Research & Development, says that younger adults have a higher level of interest in joining a museum, zoo, or other cultural institution than older people do. In addition, their reasons for joining differ significantly from older generations.

“[W]ith the exception of free admission, the primary benefits of membership according to millennials are less transaction-based than are the responses from their preceding generations,” she notes of the research. “Millennials care about ‘belonging,’ ‘supporting,’ and ‘impact.'”

Watch the video above for more highlights from IMPACTS’ research.

Other Links of Note

Beer people know how to have fun: The American Homebrewers Association’s latest clip, featuring the teams behind and, covers the art of “sabering”—and does so with the sweep of an action movie. Associations of all stripes should take notice of the production values on this one.

You’ll have plenty of time off this holiday season: Why not use it to practice your headline-writing skills? Read this blog post and get back to us in January.

Trying to deploy a new operating system around the office? The process can take some time, but if you’re looking for an example on how to do it right, what better place to look than Microsoft? They make Windows, after all.

(Wisconsin Club handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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